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Written for Word #121 over at [livejournal.com profile] 15_minute_fic.

At Least (flash, 469 words)

I've never been very good at pillow talk. My wife, Shelley, told me once that it was one thing that made her hesitate when we started talking about getting married.

"Really? Am I that bad?"

"... Let's just say that you have an issue hitting the right tone for the moment."

"What do you mean?"

"You want an example?"


"Talking about how sweaty your underarms are doesn't exactly get my motor running."

"I was trying to be funny!"

"You weren't. You were gross. And trying to be funny probably wasn't the best move, either."

I tried to convince myself that it wasn't a big deal, but I'm a perfectionist. If I know I have a weakness, I have a strong compulsion to overcome it. I did the same thing with essay writing back in college. My first paper was a solid C paper and it drove me nuts until I figured out how to earn an A every time. This couldn't be so different, could it?

Shelley must have caught on that I was thinking about it. One night we were just starting to get amorous and I opened my mouth to say something when she cut me off. "Alan? Don't. Just don't."


"You were going to try to butter me up. Please don't."

"How am I supposed to get better if you don't let me practice?"

"You've been practicing for thirteen years. I think that's enough, don't you?"

"Are you saying I should just give up?"

"Thirteen years, Alan."

"You should have told me sooner."

She laughed. "Oh, so your inability to make with the sexy talk is my fault?"

"Yes. You were enabling my ineptness."

"Shut up and kiss me, you moron."

It was pretty hard to argue with that.

Unfortunately it didn't quell my need to succeed - I needed to, at least once, say something that really hit the right note with Shelley. I was a pretty lucky guy, I thought. Shelley was - still is - my second wife, and I still keenly remember the wrenching uncertainty that was being married to the wrong choice. But through our ups and downs, our occasional screaming matches and nights away from home with friends to cool down, I never felt that Shelley had been the wrong choice. I'd managed to get it right with her, and by god I wanted to get it right with this one thing that had consumed my whole being.

The next time we were in bed and exchanging those little caresses and kisses that slowly communicated what we both were after, I knew it was time.


"What?" she said in my ear, cautiously.

"You are one. Sexy. Dame."

She laughed, a sighing kind of laugh that was infectuous. "'Dame?' That was your best attempt?" She said.

Oh well - I had to roll with it. "You bet."

"Don't quit your day job."

"At least I was funny, right?"

She kissed my nose. "At least."
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March 2011

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